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By Lynda Williamson
The largest tidal turbine energy project in Europe has been given the go-ahead by the Scottish government.
In what was a bumper day for the Pentland Firth, the government also announced that Scottish wave power developers, Aquamarine Power Ltd and Pelamis Wave Power are to share a slice of a £13 million wave first array support programme.
The tidal turbine array, which will be the largest in Europe, will be developed by MeyGen Ltd, a competitor in the Scottish government's Saltire prize. MeyGen has been awarded consent for an 86MW project which is to be located in one of Europe's greatest tidal resources at the Inner Sound of the Pentland Forth off the north coast of Caithness.
The Inner Sound was assessed as the best site for initial commercialisation due to maximum current speeds of 5 metres per second, suitable water depth and good access to the grid.
The project will be rolled out in stages beginning with an initial 9MW demonstration array of 6 turbines. The company, which is keen to stress its green credentials, believes this initial array will provide valuable environmental data for subsequent phases and for the wider tidal energy industry.
Ed Rollings, Environment & Consents Manager of MeyGen commented:
"The award of this consent is the culmination of over 4 years of environmental work and extensive consultation with stakeholders and the local community in Caithness.
"The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters region is an internationally important area for wildlife and we are committed to continuing research with interested parties to ensure that the exploitation of this clean, predictable and sustainable energy resource is done so in a manner that does not have a detrimental effect on the species and habitats in the area.”
Ahead of the Scottish Renewables Marine Conference in Inverness the Scottish government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing remarked:
"This is a major step forward for Scotland’s marine renewable energy industry. When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40 per cent of homes in the Highlands.
"This exciting development in the waters around Orkney is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up 398 megawatts.”
The money for the wave power support scheme comes from the government's Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund. Last year Aquamarine Power Ltd installed its 2nd generation Oyster 800 wave energy machine at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.
The Pelamis P2 wave energy converter [pictured right] has recently completed its first year of a robust testing programme at the same facility.
Welcoming both announcements Friend of the Earth Scotland Director, Dr Richard Dixon said:
"This is great news for renewable energy in Scotland. Harnessing the huge energy in the tides of the Pentland Firth is a major engineering challenge but this scheme will prove technologies and techniques which will be important in future tidal energy schemes around the world.
"Tidal and wave power are particularly important for Scotland but they will also be a major plank of the fight against climate change around the world. As a global leader Scotland can create green electricity, reduce climate emissions and generate new jobs."